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Second place in ICC Test Championship beckons India

Bangalore, Oct 7 (UNI) India can move to second place in the ICC Test Championship table if it beats Australia by a margin of two Tests or more in the upcoming four-match series, which gets underway here on October 9.

Sachin Tendulkar is currently lying at the 23rd position, his lowest ranking in 15 years. With several players ahead of him not in action, he can make a quick return to the top 20 with some solid performances against Australia.

India currently has three batsmen in the top 20 with Virender Sehwag (10th), VVS Laxman (15th) and Rahul Dravid (16th) all capable of improving on their current positions.

India has only one fast bowler in the top 20 in the shape of Zaheer Khan but on the spinning front things are much more healthy with Harbhajan Singh and captain Kumble in 12th and 10th places respectively. With that part of the rankings quite congested, expect to see plenty of movement one way or another during the series.

Anil Kumble's side currently lies in third position, seven ratings points behind South Africa and 29 points behind Australia. A series win by 4-0 would see India move ahead of Graeme Smith's men and reduce the gap with the leaders to just seven points.

Scorelines of 3-0, 3-1 or 2-0 would also be enough for India to claim second position and put pressure on Australia, which has been at the top of the ICC Test Championship table for more than five years.

A 1-0 or 2-1 win for India would leave it in third position but close the gap on the Proteas to just one ratings point and Australia would come back to the chasing pack by losing eight points. Such is the weighting of the rankings where it's designed to be particularly tough at the top, a drawn series or even a narrow Australia win would see it lose points.

But Australia can widen the gap if it wins the series by two Tests or more. A 4-0 sweep would put Ricky Ponting's men almost out of sight, 26 points clear of its nearest rival.

On the individual front, either of Ponting and team-mate Michael Hussey could go top of the ICC Player Rankings for Test batsmen if they put in high-class performances in the middle over the coming weeks.

At present, Hussey sits in third position, just eight ratings points behind West Indies left-hander and ICC Cricketer of the Year 2008 Shivnarine Chanderpaul.

Ponting is just two points further back and he will be looking to turn around his previous form in India, which historically has not been up to the high standard of his play elsewhere in the world.

With Chanderpaul not currently in action, the way is clear for one of these Australia players to make his mark on the rankings while Matthew Hayden (seventh place) and Michael Clarke (13th) can also make moves in the right direction.

Brett Lee is the other Australia fast bowler in the top five and he can push back up above the 800-point mark during this series. He will remember the part he played in Australia's series victory over India on home turf earlier this year when he took 24 wickets, the most by any bowler on either side, and he will be anxious to replicate some of that form.


Story first published: Tuesday, October 7, 2008, 16:37 [IST]
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